It was about 1PM on a very unusually hot fall day, close to 90 degrees, in the heart of Downtown L.A.’s business corridor. I had left my office on the corner of 5th and Flower, walking east toward the Biltmore Hotel, which takes up a large part of the city block, to run a lunchtime errand at the Jewelry Mart. As I crossed the street toward the north side of the Biltmore, I observed a phalanx of film crew trucks lined up, blocking the street access all around the area. The Biltmore Hotel has always been one of the most locally sought-after filming locations in the city, archiving classic film scenes like the Fabulous Baker Boys, in 1989, starring the Bridges brothers, Beau and Jeff, with the famous piano scene played by Michelle Pfeiffer as Susie Diamond, sexy in red, shot at the Rendezvous Court of the hotel.
I noticed out of the corner of my eye a young, tall, muscular homeless man leaning against the building by the service and mechanical stairway, where the sidewalk narrows. As gentrification encroaches on the city, the population of those without shelter, food and basic necessities has reached epic proportions. I also noticed ahead, on the sidewalk, a group of about eight film crewmen in work boots, standing by, waiting for their next action command. I walked toward the crew, while passing the homeless man leaning against the wall. Suddenly, my passive observations became real life action. The homeless man leapt from the wall, thrusting me against the movie truck parked at the curb, blocking my forward motion, and in an angry rage, spewed a big gulp-sized wad of spit on my face, neck and torso. Attacks like this take the brain a few precious seconds to recalibrate to fight or flight mode, emoting a “you are in danger” signal that causes every hair on the body to stand at attention. While what happened next was a blur, this I can confirm; pulling from years of yoga, I stood tall in Tadasana, or mountain pose, and looked my attacker in the eye and calmly, with my sword down, said to him, “ Why would you do something like this to me?” As I did this, an energetic and physical separation occurred instantly, as what only could be described as an angelic presence separated him from me and caused him to recoil and move back, while his wide eyes and flailing arms motioned, he screamed out, “ I am sick of all you bitches, I hate you all!” It was at that moment, knowing I was safe, although disgustingly violated, that I began to seek “physical” help. Not one of the crewmembers came to my aid, all managed to disappear. There were no police anywhere, and so I wandered into the hotel, where a very kind security guard came to help. By this time my attacker was long gone, vanishing into the fabric of LA like a cockroach slipping into a wall crack out of sheer survival.
A few days after my attack, I noticed a pattern of violence emerging, as NCIS actress Pauley Perrette’s Hollywood homeless attack became front-page news. Her situation, similar, yet far more violent, portended a disturbing and dark energy emerging on our streets. Men standing near her, witnessing the attack, too, did not aid her. Are we becoming that immune to violence in our society or so apathetic that when a fellow human is in trouble, we look the other way? I suppose the answer to this is far more complex to solve and dissect than this writing will allow.
I had no idea how an event like this would reshape my future. While I had heard of PTSD, I had mistakenly categorized its symptoms as reserved for people who had seen serious combat or actual rape or assault. I was jumpy. Anyone coming around my peripheral vision, like a valet parking attendant, caused me to jump out of my skin. The incidences worsened and I knew I had to find a way back to balance, healing and forgiveness, or this episode would haunt me forever. Fortunately, years of metaphysical and spiritual training and experiences allowed me to move through this horrific encounter and find the pearl of wisdom in it. And one of those pearls of wisdom became a restructuring of my daily yoga practice to include restorative yoga.
Restorative yoga falls into a special category of poses that have the ability to completely nourish and replenish our body-mind-spirit connection. These postures are usually supported by blankets, blocks, straps or other props and held for several minutes at a time. The more your body is fully supported, the deeper your ability to relax and surrender and settle in. Do note that while the body may find comfort in the pose, the mind can be a bit trickier to coax into submission. This takes time, especially compounded by a traumatic event like the one that happened to me on the LA streets.
The time you devote to this will be worth it in the long run. Gradually, you will find peace, forgiveness and a sense of calm and soon you will notice the return to a more balanced state of being.
There are a few great restorative yoga teachers in LA, in addition to my own private classes, which I would highly recommend:
Christopher Barbour (Equinox, Marina del Rey) www.besatya.com
Andres Salcedo (Equinox, Power Yoga, Santa Monica) www.powersoulyoga.com
Amita Stark (Bhakti Yoga Shala, Santa Monica) www.bhaktiyogashala.com
Kimber Tiernan (Life Yoga Garden, Santa Monica) www.anandagrace.com
Lori Tierney (private and retreat classes) www.redroadretreats.com